Why Germans Can Say Things No One Else Can

From The Book of Life:

We’re hugely dependent on language to help us express what we really think and feel. But some languages are better than others at crisply naming important sensations.

Germans have been geniuses at inventing long – or what get called ‘compound’ – words that elegantly put a finger on emotions that we all know, but that other languages require whole clumsy sentences or paragraphs to express.

Here is a small selection of the best of Germany’s extraordinary range of compound words:

1. Erklärungsnot


Literally, a distress at not having an explanation. The perfect way to define what a partner might feel when they’re caught watching porn or are spotted in a restaurant with a hand they shouldn’t be holding. More grandly, Erklärungsnot is something we feel when we realise we don’t have any explanations for the big questions of life. It’s a word that defines existential angst as much as shame.

2. Futterneid


The feeling when you’re eating with other people and realise that they’ve ordered something better off the menu that you’d be dying to eat yourself. Perhaps you were trying to be abstemious; now you’re just in agony. The word recognises that we spend most of our lives feeling we’ve ordered the wrong thing. And not just in restaurants.

More here.